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Employers must tap into older talent pool or get "left behind", says pensions minister

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Employers must tap into the over-50s talent pool or risk getting "left behind", pensions minister Steve Webb has warned.

A Government guide, Employing older workers, published by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has warned: "Employers who ignore Britain's growing older population could suffer skills shortages and lose an important competitive."

It also revealed there are 13.5 million job vacancies which need to be filled over the next 10 years, but only seven million young people are projected to leave school and college over that time. It predicts a shortage of workers in Britain means people could have to work until they are at least 70.

Webb said older workers are a "vital and untapped resource". He said: "Britain is in a global economic race and we're moving towards a landscape where there will be a set of jobs that employers cannot fill with anyone but experienced older workers.

"A firm that doesn't make use of the talent pool on offer among the over-50s will be left behind."

The guide found with people living and keeping fit for longer, the proportion of over-50s in the workforce is set to rise to a third by 2020 (from 27% at the moment). Some 50% of workers aged over 55 are proposing to work beyond the state pension age now the default retirement age has been abolished.

Webb added: "We're certainly not suggesting older workers take jobs away from younger people.

"Instead, we're saying it's time businesses allow people to fulfil their professional potentials and that employers heed to the competitive edge older workers bring to their businesses."

David Fairhurst, chief people office at McDonald's, who was involved in the research, said some people "might find it surprising" to learn McDonald's UK employs more than 1,000 people over 60 years old. He said: "These [older employees] play an important role in our business and they make a huge impact on our customer satisfaction.

Fairhurst added: "Despite the growing numbers of mature workers, their contribution to business and the wider economy often goes unsung."

According to the guide, employers should "consider offering apprenticeships and work experience opportunities to people of any age: younger and older."

Although many employers believe that older workers can be assets, people aged over 50 are the least likely group to be recruited once they are out of work, it said.